I still love cooking, but I’m all about finding ways to cut back on meal planning. These days I don’t want to devote all that time to one meal every day. Especially when the kids complain and don’t eat it! When I spend less time meal planning I feel better, the meals go smoother, and I don’t care as much if they kids love it or hate it.
If you are ready to find ways to spend less time with your meal planning here are some of the tips I’ve been using.
Don’t forget to share you own tips with me in the comment section below.
Devote One Day
I still find it easiest to devote one day to grocery shopping and meal prepping. Before you go grocery shopping you must know what you already have. If you are on a tight budget, it’s best to make your meal plan first using what you already have. This of course will cut back the time you spend at the grocery store.
Plan your meals according to sales.
If you have it in the budget, treat yourself to one prepared meal. By this I mean one where all you need to do is put it in the microwave or oven.
Many regular grocery stores are doing this now, but for us frugal folks, Costco and BJ’s have a very competitive price and you will find packs large enough to feed a family. Wegman’s is super popular with their prepared meals.
Read or Pin: My First Costco Haul & Meal Menu
Are you tired of trying to scramble for meal ideas using what you already have? Let my favorite app come up with meals based on what you have! Sign up here.
Use PreMade Meals
If you are a BJ’s member I have a roundup of my favorite pre-made meals here. I tell you what, that delicious pot pie for $7 is a treat to myself as far as taste, and the ease of popping it in the oven.
When you think about the $10 cost of one of these prepared meals, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than taking your family out to eat. Sure you can make your own potpie for less per serving, but its going to take you time. The crust needs to be made, and rolled, and chicken diced and veggies saute. If you’re exhausted these new prepared meals are a lifesaver.
Do it and treat yourself this year.
Buy a big pack of meat- preferably from places like BJ’s or Costco. At BJ’s ground beef typically is $2.99 per lb. here in Western NY. You can buy it and cook it all on your meal prep day or package it up and freeze for meals the following week. To really save time I would pick meals where I can cook the ground meat on Sunday and then use throughout the week.
Ideas for this would be, Ground Beef Taco Casserole, Beef Stroganoff, You could do a beef Shepard’s pie with your mashed potatoes, etc.
Start Your Meal Plan on a Sunday
It’s easier to meal plan on a Sunday and get a good look at the week ahead. Unless you work on Sundays then adjust accordingly. For most of us Sunday is a day to prepare for the week ahead. If you want free printables to help you meal plan check out the ones I have here.
If you hate coming up with ideas for meals but want to cook at home, grab my favorite meal planning app here.
Three Proteins , 4 Vegetables and One Starch
When you need to meal plan quickly stick to three proteins, four vegetables and one starch. This means three of your meals will be protein, you’ll have at least four vegetables as sides and on starch.
For the starch I like to get a big bag of potatoes and make mashed enough to have two meals, or cut up a bunch and roast them so you can eat them twice. The idea is with your starch to make enough to get two meals from it. More ideas, rice, noodles. etc. I like doing a few meals that aren’t meat as well. It saves us on overall grocery budget.
Read or Pin: I love my Ninja Foodi for Fast Meals- see the recipes here
Check your Schedule
The biggest mistake you can make when you are meal prepping and fast is to forget that the nights you won’t be home, or the nights you only have a half hour before you need to head back out the door. It seems like it’s the obvious one, but I’ve gotten so excited in my meal plan only to realize the girls have dance.
This is common when you have a new schedule to adjust to. Always look ahead to see what each night entails.
Buy Premade Sauces.
When I’m in a meal planning rut or need to whip up a quick meal, Wegman’s is my go to place for this. Every single Wegman’s brand sauce/marinade I’ve tried, we have all loved. It’s so easy to grab a quick sauce and cut up chicken breast and throw together rice and broccoli. (If you don’t have a Wegman’s they do sell it on Amazon, but it’s expensive. I would try one of your local grocery stores mixes first.)
I did a post on my favorite sauce at Wegman’s here. When you need to meal prep fast these types of mixes can make a meal come together quickly.
One of our go to meals is to grab chicken thighs, cook them up in the Wegman’s Stir Fry sauce and add in a bag of the oriental veggies from BJs. Quick easy and delicious.
Read or Pin: The Sauce that Makes Vegetables Taste Amazing
Breakfast for Dinner
Always have breakfast for dinner as a back up. Its fast, easy and all you need is a little flour, milk and eggs to whip up pancakes. Or fry up eggs and toast. It’s healthy and easy, especially when you raise your own chickens.
Read or Pin: Cute Ideas to Store and Display Your Farm Eggs
Meal Prep Containers
I like to keep a separate drawer for my meal prepping items and leftovers. The main reason I’ve started doing this is because I hate going through all the lids and such to find the right one. When I’m short on time the last thing I want to do is try five lids before I find the right one.
We also got the Rubbermaid containers where the lids snap on, but I will warn you, you need good space to keep all the lids stacked to each container. It also helps to have plastic freezer bags on hand, if you don’t have a Foodsaver.
It makes meal prepping fun when you have containers to put things in. I’ve shared my favorite ones below.
- Snapware 6-Cup Total Solution Rectangle Food Storage Container, Glass
- Rubbermaid Easy Find Vented Lids Food Storage Containers, Set of 21
- Ball Mason “PINT” Jars Wide-Mouth Can or Freeze
- Ziploc Freezer Bags, Gallon, 28 Count